Program helps put smiles on faces of Bullitt County youth

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By Stephen Thomas

NICHOLS - The annual Smile Kentucky! program returned to Bullitt County this month.

This year the program, sponsored by the Louisville Water Company, visited 34 schools throughout the Louisville area.

Free dental screenings were provided to students in grades 3-5 at Freedom, Maryville, Roby and Nichols Elementary.

Local dentists and dental assistants volunteer services to examine the students. Any students found with severe problems will visit the University of Louisville School of Dentistry Feb. 5 for further treatment.

Dr. Gay Baughman with the School of Dentistry examined Nichols students with dental assistant Lynn Kaufmann.

“We’ve had fun, the kids are great,” said Baughman. “I think it’s good for them to see a dentist and assistant in a different environment, it takes away some of the fear.”

The Bullitt County Health Department visited each school to provide dental education programs for students of all ages.

Health Department representatives Liz Crigler and Lori Nelson spoke to each classroom discussing the importance of teeth maintenance as well as the dangers of tooth decay.

Crigler said each student received a new toothbrush, toothpaste, a water bottle and an educational booklet.

“It’s better for students to hear all this from just parents,” said Crigler. “We’ve received letters in the past from parents thanking us.”

Nichols Family Resource Center coordinator Arleta Watkins said some students have never visited a dentist office.

Watkins added that the rural community did not receive city water, which includes fluoride treatment. Many homes still used creek or well water.

“Kids in school tell me their teeth are hurting,” said Watkins. “At school when your teeth ache you’re not able to function at your highest level.”

Crigler said good teeth led to a good smile, which added confidence to many students.

“If they know something is wrong they don’t smile,” she said. “It’s definitely all about the smile.”

Since established in 2002, Smile Kentucky! has provided educational programs to 104,000 students, dental screenings for 25,000 and free treatment to more than 2,100.

Baughman said the School of Dentistry was in need of further volunteers for the Feb. 5 treatment day. For more information contact the Louisville Water Company, (502) 569-3600.